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Old Dominion University Releases Ninth Annual State of the Region Report

Old Dominion University's ninth annual State of the Region report examines a wide array of Hampton Roads issues, ranging from the economy to care for the mentally ill.

Published by ODU's Regional Studies Institute, the report also looks at how local television stations cover crime and violence, and offers a review of the region's housing markets.

In addition, the 114-page report considers why women earn less than men in Hampton Roads; highlights the economic contributions of German firms in the area; and analyzes the methodologies of the two most respected guides of metropolitan livability, paying particular attention to how Hampton Roads fares and compares in their latest rankings.

James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus, serves as editor of the report, which received financial support from Old Dominion and a number of local organizations and individuals. Koch notes that the report does not constitute an official viewpoint of the university.

"The State of the Region reports maintain the goal of stimulating thought and discussion that ultimately will make Hampton Roads an even better place to live," he said. "We are proud of our region's many successes, but realize it is possible to improve our performance. In order to do so, we must have accurate information about 'where we are' and a sound understanding of the policy options available to us."

The 2008 report is divided into seven parts. Among its findings are:

• The spectacular first half of this decade is fading into the background as the regional economic growth rate has fallen back to the commonwealth and national averages. Defense spending continues to rise in importance and now is responsible for more than 40 percent of the regional income generation.

• Hampton Roads has not been immune to national housing problems, but its mortgage defaults and foreclosures have been well below the national average. Housing prices here have not yet declined significantly, except for new residential housing. The "bottom" may be a year or more away.

• Only one of every six television evening news stories relates to crime or violence, but almost 33 percent of the stories that lead broadcasts focus on crime and violence, while 45 percent focus on some type of crime. African Americans are frequently featured as alleged perpetrators, while Caucasians usually are the reported victims.

• As is true nationally, women in Hampton Roads earn less than men. Gender earnings differentials are particularly large in occupations characterized by "crowding" - where women constitute a sizable proportion of those employed. Economically speaking, women may be better off in the Richmond metro area than in Hampton Roads.

• According to the U.S. Center for Mental Health Services, an estimated 64,972 people (5.4 percent) suffer from serious mental illness in Hampton Roads. Beginning in the 1970s, these individuals largely have been deinstitutionalized and now live within the region's communities, where they are served primarily by nine community services boards.

• The region is home to 31 companies hailing from the Federal Republic of Germany and they represent the largest contingent (19 percent) of the area's international firms. These firms "insource" rather than "outsource" jobs and pay above-average compensation to their workers.

• The two most respected rankings of the livability of metropolitan areas are David Savigeau's Placed Rated Almanac (PRA) and Bert Sperling and Peter Sander's Cities Ranked and Rated (CRR). In their most recent editions, PRA ranked Hampton Roads 20th in the nation among 370-plus metro areas, while CRR ranked the region 137th. The State of the Region report analyzes where these ratings come from and how Hampton Roads compares to other areas.

The 2008 State of the Region report, as well as the reports from 2000 through 2007, can be found on the Web at www.odu.edu/forecasting. In addition, PDF copies of the report can be downloaded at www.jamesvkoch.com.

This article was posted on: January 5, 2009

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